I have been looking at lessons we can learn about faith from the life of Abraham. This time I want to look at the fact that Abraham enrolled in the school of faith, spending a long time learning about faith prior to graduating.
We need to grow in faith; we need to learn to distinguish the voice of God so that we can exercise faith rather than presumption. Sacrificing Isaac was the climax of Abraham’s walk of faith; his passing out from the school of faith. He was only able to make this amazing step of faith following years in the school of faith. In fact whilst he was in the school of faith he didn’t always do so well at the end of year exams. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews chooses not to mention these failures for reasons we will come to. The writer of Genesis tells us all about Abrahams failures as well as his successes
Exam 1. After Abram leaves his home following being called by God there is a famine, Genesis 12, so he heads for Egypt. We then read in verse 11
“As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.””
Not really what you would expect from a champion of faith – what sort of marks would you give him in that exam? I think he gets a fail.
Pharoah does take a shine to Sarai and “she was taken into his palace” – whatever that means…… then in V17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharoah and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.
God proves himself faithful, despite Abraham’s lack of faith, they go away with lots of possessions.
Exam 2. Abram had received a promise that he would be the father of a great nation. Guess he talked a little bit about it. Maybe even boasted about it and got the normal ridicule, “God said what – can you be sure?” Yes of course. “But they can’t even have a child…” So together this great couple of faith decide to give God a helping hand to enable the promise to be kept. Abram has a child through Sarai’s maid.
Marks out of ten???????
Exam 3. This exam is a resit of exam 1, this time not with Pharaoh but Abimelech king of Gerar. Abraham, man of faith passes Sarai off as his sister again. Further failure. See Genesis chapter 20.
He even fails his resists!
The point I want to make regarding the school of faith is that we learns lessons about trusting God even through failure. Every time Abraham fails an exam he goes back to a point of faith. God repeats his promises. There is no reprimand, just encouragement to keep going, to keep learning lessons of faith.
There are consequences of failing our exams, it would have been better if Abraham hadn’t fathered Ishmael. However failures do not mean we are expelled from the school. What God is looking for is that we graduate.
At this crucial time I want to encourage us to exercise faith; to walk by faith not by sight; to not be overwhelmed by fear but to exercise faith. Faith is the antidote for fear.
We need to recognise the difficulty and challenge of it – realise the stigma of faith.
We also not to ensure past failures do not discourage us, Satan will remind you of you failures – yet God remembers our successes. The NT doesn’t focus on the exams Abraham failed – but the fact that he graduates. Even if you have failed a few end of year exams are you still happy to keep your place in the school of faith? Willing take some more exams – ready to pass the big one?
I’m up for it – this country is going to be transformed by people faith – we need to respond with faith to God’s grace – what about you?
WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON
Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.
He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.